Pharmacists employed by primary care networks (PCNs) should be deployed to work ‘where they are needed’ and across multiple settings, including in community pharmacies, the chair of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has suggested.

Giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC)’s pharmacy inquiry yesterday, Mark Koziol proposed using Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) funding to support pharmacists to work in a variety of settings, instead of in just ‘one particular corner’ of general practice.

‘If there was an army of healthcare professionals that could be deployed in any of those healthcare settings – so in a doctor's practice, in a care home, in a community pharmacy – it would enable the primary care organisations to deploy the forces far more effectively than is currently the case,’ he said.

Referencing concerns about the community pharmacy workforce going to work in general practice, the PDA chief executive added: ‘We've got no problem with pharmacists being employed by a PCN. But let's deploy them where they are needed, and not just send them into one particular corner, because it just continues to support the broken the broken system.’

Mr Koziol also stressed the need for a multidisciplinary team within integrated care systems, calling for a chief pharmacist in every integrated care board (ICB).

‘It's like a football team,’ he said, referencing an analogy used to refer to pharmacists working in different settings in a previous evidence session of the inquiry.

In November, Dr Graham Stretch, a pharmacist partner in a general practice, told the inquiry that community pharmacists needed to be brought off ‘the bench’ and ‘onto the field’.

‘Primary care in its broadest sense includes my colleagues working in community. Right now, it feels like we run a team in primary care networks but we have one of our key players on the bench, not on the field. We need to bring him on to the field,’ Dr Stretch said in the November session of the pharmacy inquiry.

Speaking to the inquiry yesterday, Mr Koziol built on Dr Stretch’s analogy, stressing the importance of each role as well as of strong leadership.

‘If we aren't careful, we're going to have the focus on all the strikers. But we need the defenders in there. We need the wingers in there,’ he said.

‘And most importantly, we need a manager,’ Mr Koziol added.

‘The ICB should be the manager of what goes on in our healthcare patch, it should deploy the resources, marshal the forces [and] make sure that we don't have silos going on.

‘For that to happen, there needs to be a multidisciplinary team in the ICB. There needs to be a chief pharmacist at ICB level – that's really quite important,’ he said.

Lack of community pharmacy training budget ‘needs to change’

Mr Koziol raised particular concerns about the lack of budget for training community pharmacy staff.

‘If you look at GP practice, they get funding to train their people, community pharmacy does not,’ he said, highlighting a difference between the contracts for each setting.

He said that many locum community pharmacists had been told that they would need to cover their own training for the new Pharmacy First service, or they would be unable to work shifts in certain pharmacies.

‘That's no way to motivate a workforce to get people skilled and trained up,’ Mr Koziol added.

‘And yet in other sectors, particularly in the land of GP practice, you’ve got budgets for training, you've got budgets for infrastructure changes, improvements, this doesn't happen in the community pharmacy setting and that really does need to change.’